Does Trading Robinson Cano Make Sense?

For the last three years, according to fWAR, Robinson Cano tied Joey Votto as the third most valuable player in baseball behind just Miguel Cabrera(#1) and Justin Verlander(#2). So why has a section of Yankee fans begun to call for trading the second baseman? He’s clearly the best player on the team, but as the Yankees are approaching a $189 million budget in 2014/2015, the team needs to find a way to trim some money. Trading Cano with one year left on his contract would not only save the team money by preventing a major re-sign, but it would also bring in a number of top prospects in to the organization.

Most of these proposals have to do with the Cardinals, who have a very clear need at the middle infield, and a number of prospects to shed. Landing players like Oscar Tevaras, Carlos Martinez, or Trevor Rosenthal could be a great move by the Yankees, and it’s only at the expense of one player’s single season. But trading Cano this offseason would also put the team without a second baseman for 2013, and the plan would also call for them not to re-sign him in 2014.

Not only would they have to resort to Corban Joseph, who I actually really like, but the team would lose their best player. I don’t mean to call doomsday, but losing the guy who just put up a 7.8 fWAR season in 2012 means the team wouldn’t have made the playoffs. That means another play is gonna have to pull up the slack somewhere, and with the budget coming, it’s probably not coming from free agency. If we’re wishing on Oscar Tavaras to put up close to 8 wins, that’s a silly risk I want no part of.

There’s no perfect answer to how the team will recreate Cano’s production, but the best one is Cano himself. It would seem that Yankee fans have grown tired of the contracts that put Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez under team control through their late 30′s to 40′s. The problem we have with these player getting older, is that we’re now paying them for what they did year’s ago. Alex Rodriguez making close to $30 million is obviously far from what he deserves, but 5 years ago is a different story. Fans don’t want to see Cano turn into an old and overpaid Rodriguez, but it’s not the worst idea in the world.

Discussing Rodriguez’ contract is another article for another day, so let’s continue on what it would take to sign Cano. It seems that the general consensus is that the second baseman and his agent Scott Boras will demand a 6 year contract after 2013, employing Cano into his age 37/38 season. In terms of dollars, because of the similarities in production of the last three years, Joey Votto is a good comparison, setting the average annual salary at $22.5 million. This means that the Yankees will have to give Cano a 6 year $135 million contract to keep him at second base.

In 2012, Cano produced a 7.8 fWAR at the age of 29. According to work done at Colgate University by Nikolas Furnald, baseball players in the prior steroid era of 1994-2004 peaked at the age of 29.057. While I’m not implying that Cano has used performance enhancing drugs, the numbers found in this project are more indicative to how players have performed in the today’s game. Baseball in 2012 has better methods of injury treatment, playing time management, and even statistical analysis to help a player remain in the game for a longer period of time.

So according to these results, Cano is likely peaking as we speak, and if the Yankees re-sign him, they’ll be doing so during his years of regression. This is the major reason that fans dislike the idea of paying him big money into his age 37/38 season. However, the same piece finds that the average rate of regression for players in the 1994-2004 era starts at around 2.3% after their peak year and increases every year after. Here is Cano’s estimated fWAR through the 6 year contract based on an additional 2.3% regression every year.

Age Percent Regression fWAR
29 7.80
30 2.30% 7.62
31 4.60% 7.27
32 6.90% 6.77
33 9.20% 6.15
34 11.50% 5.44
35 13.80% 4.69
36 16.10% 3.93
37 18.40% 3.21
Total 37.45

The total 37.45 fWAR includes only the years that would be included in a 6 year re-sign. This number is much more important than the year by year fWAR, as the cumulative number is much more likely to occur when given a 6 year sample size.

I see these numbers as very optimistic, but perhaps this is coming from a Yankee fan that’s grown close to the regression of aging players. Even if these numbers are too generous, the estimate leaves a large room for failure. At 37.45 fWAR and $135 million, it means that Yankees would be spending $3.6 million per win. As I pointed out in my last post, the going price on the free agent market from 2007 through 2011 was $4.5 million per win, and this year it’s estimated at $4.23 million per win. This means if Cano puts up a clean 30 fWAR in his 6 year deal, the Yankees will break even with the standard $4.5 million. If the number goes any higher, the Yankees at least get the incentives that Cano brings as a franchise player.

The Yankees are an organization that does not rebuild. They have proven critics for almost 20 years that a team can win every season, and if they plan to keep this up, they need to keep Cano. Unfortunately, we’ve all seen the regression of aging players up close over the last couple of years, but that doesn’t mean re-signing Cano will be necessarily bad. If we take a step back and look at the average decline of players, another big Cano extension might actually become a very good contract.

Mike is the co-Editor-in-Chief of It's About The Money. Outside of blogging baseball, Mike is also a musician, a runner, and a beer lover.

33 thoughts on “Does Trading Robinson Cano Make Sense?

  1. Hunter James

    I would absolutely be open to trading Cano to a team for a sure thing top, young prospect. If the Yankees could get Jurickson Profar or Justin Upton and Trevor Bauer for Cano that would be a win. And who’s to say they can’t resign him when tons of money comes off the books from Rivera, Jeter, Ichiro, Petitte, and Kuroda contracts being up

    • roadrider

      If the Yankees could get Jurickson Profar or Justin Upton and Trevor Bauer for Cano that would be a win.

      No kidding. And if the Yankees could get Felix Hernandez for Frankie Cervelli that would be a win too.

      Trades have to work for both sides Teams are not exactly dying to trade their best young prospects for one year of a guy who will probably not sign with them or, if he does, will require that they pay him really big bucks through his decline phase

  2. Brian

    Absolutely not! Ridiculous…

  3. Ariel

    In the “old days” before the statistical phenomen bvecame the touchstone (1950′s – 1960′s) it was widely thought, and accepted, that a player’s peak years, were 28 to 31. Beyond that, the downhill slope became apparent. Likewise in this day and age, as you note, the “Boras Syndrome” to the contrary notwithstanding. There is little doubt (in my mind) come one year from now that Stevie will be able to secure an outrageous sum from a cash laden team (read… the “Dodgers”) which will have then secured in excess of a five billion dollar TV committment from the likes of either Time-Warner or Fox. Will they then want, and be willing to pay for, the smoothest and probably most talented player in the game? Will this generation of Yankee ownership maintain its stated penurious position of luxury tax avoidance (while sacrificing on field performance and resultant diminution in on-field performance, and tv ratings clearly affecting the value of the franchise) and let Robbie go? My sense is in the affirmative.

    • Ariel

      I would add that the Tampa contingent (read.. ownership) might well look to its own stats in justifying its position, namely “Does Robbie really come through for us in the clutch?” How much of his statistical performance result from “pile-on hits” (i.e., when the game is not on the line, one way or the other). Does he really come through when the game is on the line? Is he guy who historically is the “man” you want at the plate in the bottom of the ninth with the winning run on base and two out? Yes, Robbie does it when we are behind early in the game, but that’s not when the chips are down. Tampa could well pull this scenario out its hat and say “it’s not worth it”, we don’t want another Arod scenario (thank you, Hank).

      As a Yankee fan since Yogi was a rookie, I would sign Robbie without a question. Were I to be sitting in Tampa with my money on the line, across the table from Boras (with an outrageous offer from the Dodgers in his vest pocket) it would be a different story.

  4. jose orozco

    As i see, yanks need to rebuild. Next year ist lost.

  5. Aaron

    Trading Robinson Cano is the absolute dumbest thing I have ever heard. To even write an entire article on it is a complete waste of time, it will never happen.

    • Frank Spero

      boy you hit the nail on the head aaron were do these asinine writers get these ideas from sensationalism in writing so they will get somebody to read them

  6. Comnsnse

    Cano is a special player but this org. has been seriously burned by long and expensive contracts.

    Cano could possibly bring a Stanton and pitching. The Yanks have a very good hitter in Daviud Adams,not sure about his D.

    Cano/Boras will be looking for at least 200mm. and 8.

    The last years will be a donation,so unless they are prepared to jettison Arod and move Cano to third,and utilizing a player from the system.

    I listen! I have no regard for Cashman’s ability in the trade market but it is tempting.

    • roadrider

      Cano could possibly bring a Stanton and pitching.

      Not in a million years. Why would a team who is unloading anyone with an expensive, long-term contract, and is apparently not planning to contend anytime soon, want to trade their best young player (who is barely making more than the minimum) for a guy who is one-year away from free agency and a nine-figure long-term deal?

      Yeah, Stanton will make a lot more when he become eligible for arbitration but even that will be peanuts compared to what Cano will get and it’s buying Stanton’s peak years.

  7. Donnie

    Are u people freaking crazy? Trade Cano? NO WAY. He’s the best, plain and simple. You don’t trade away the best 2nd Baseman in baseball oh and by the way he hits pretty good too. Ridiculous notion of even considering it.

  8. Miguel

    “6 year $135 million” That is very,VERY optimistic. This is Boras. BORAS. Try more like 200/8 or 250/10. If he can get Fielder 200/8, he can get the same for Cano, especially with the new free spending Dodgers in town. If I could get a prospect like Profar, I would trade Cano in a heart beat.

  9. RJ

    Trading Cano is a good idea, especially if they can get a major league ready prospect along with some other top prospects. I know it’s not the Yankees way of doing things but if they are serious about staying below $189 million in 2014 this trade would help. The Yankees can’t afford another big long term contract. Have they learned their lesson with ARod and Tex?

  10. Alfred Santoro

    I would trade Cano in a heartbeat, IF we would get a player like Stanton AND a young pitcher who has already proven himself in the majors. I’m not questioning Cano’s talent.. however the point was made, is he clutch? There will never be a time in which he will have more value for a trade. Plus, you don’t win championships with a second baseman, you win with pitching. Except for 2009, when everything worked, including Arod, the Y pitching staff has been suspect for a whole decade. Considering that the team makes the playoffs every year (this year might be in question), better pitching allows the team a much better chance of going far in the playoffs. Something we haven’t seen of late.

  11. Jennifer Romero

    NO NO NO NO !!!! They can not trade Cano he is clearly the best player on the team he cant leave the Yankees that was his first team and clearly it should be his last. The Yankees will be absolutely nothing without him </3. So NO it doesn't make sense for them to trade him !!!!

  12. Olie

    Not even a consideration!

  13. hawaii dave

    A wise man once said…everyone has a price. So would I trade Cano? Probably not….but not because he is Mr. Valuable…but rather because I want better value in return. And I don’t think I can get better value, and that’s the only reason I do not trade him…certainly not because I love him, cause I don’t. He is the best 2nd baseman in baseball. So first, I need the best “something” in return, and that player will command big buck too, so there will be no savings. A bunch of prospects? Maybe. Saves money but will they sink or swim…for every Trout there are 100 Taylors. Might as well just keep him.

  14. Tom Swift

    It all depends on what they get back and whether they can replace his WARs elsewhere. I tend to doubt that someone would be willing to pay through the nose for one year of Cano, but stranger things have happened. Cashman has to consider any trade offers that come along, if only to gauge the market.

  15. I think Cano is the face of the franchise when The Captain hangs up his spikes. He’s without question the most talented Yankee since Mamtle and I’ve seen em all since Mantle’s rookie year. I loved Munson and Mattingly. Both had an iron will and the heart of a lion, but Cano has more talent. I think the Yankees have to resign him. Cashman can’t trade him for anyone that can bring what he brings to the table. So he brings 4 prospects. Can they gamble on prospects with maybe the most talented player in baseball? I would resign him and brng the Yankees’ own prospects up when they are ready. Unless Borass gets totally ridicules. 2015 is the magic year for the luxury tax so the Yankees can sigh a couple of free agents and roll on the same path to winning big.

  16. Jim Mohr

    The time is right to dump him. Get some real value out of this guy. He is lazy and thinks he is too good to run out run out ground balls and pop flies. Even Arod runs hard to first base.

  17. Chris

    No! Cano is the man to build the team around not get rid of

  18. Shannon

    Writing about trading Robby Cano is b*s. He is my age, 30, and still plays and out-performs players a decade younger than himself. He is a “True Blue” through and through!

  19. Frank Gentile

    You Crazy? Trading Robbir Cano wouldbe the Dumbest thing the Yankees can do. If The Do It would end up like when Boston traded the Babe to NY! Robbie has yt to hit his potential not to mention his Golden, smooth infiekd, Trand Robbie Cano and after 60 Plus years a die hard Yankee Fan, may look elsewhere, Pehaps they should think of Cashman or Joe Girardi!

    • Chris

      People will say “he has yet to hit his potential” until he declines, then they’ll say “he has one more big season left” until he retires. At this point in his career he’s reached his peak, he can only stay at this peak or decline from here.

  20. Chris C

    Yes the Yankees should Trade Cano with !!!

    Yankees
    2B- Robinson Cano
    CF-Curtis Granderson
    OF- Slade Heathcott
    RHP- Adam Warren

    To the

    D-Backs

    RHP-Trevor Bauer
    LHP- Tyler Skaggs
    3B- Matt Davidson
    RF- Justin Upton

    OR…..Yankees trade

    2B- Robinson Cano
    CF-Curtis Granderson
    SS- Eduardo Nunez
    RHP-Ivan Nova
    OF- Slade Heathcott

    To

    Mariners

    RHP- Taijuan Walker
    LHP- Danny Hultzen
    LHP- James Paxton
    SS- Nick Franklin

    • Patrick Oliver

      I must ask Chris.
      Where did you get those trades from?
      Go Yankees!

  21. Chris

    If you think with your heart you won’t want to trade him, if you think with your head you won’t want to re-sign him. At this point I’d be for it if you can find the right prospects in return, if not just ride out this year and get the draft pick when he signs with the Dodgers. Either way giving him an 8 or 10 year deal is a terrible idea and would prove we’ve learned nothing from the current situation. If Cano would take a 5 or 6 year deal it’d be a different story, but there is no way that happens.

    I just don’t want to look up at the end of his next deal with Cano playing 3B, hitting .270 with a .290/.300 OBP, and 18-20 HRs.

  22. Patrick Oliver

    I agree Michael.
    Get a deal Robinson, Yankees.
    Go Yankees!

  23. John Lefante

    Yes, I think a trade of cano would be a good Idea in the long run. If the Yankees go after the 23 Yr old Right Fielder from the Marlins. They will be setup for years to come with young Talent, while replenishing a much depleted farm system. And still be able to develope young players. Like the players that came up post ’96. Jeter, Pettitte, Riveria, Posada can lighting strike twice.

    • Chris

      Yanks don’t have close to the prospects to land Giancarlo Stanton, they could empty the whole system and still be bneat by 3 or 4 other teams pretty easily. Plus he likely won’t be traded for a year or two.

      If we trade for any young outfielder it should be Justin Upton, though they seem content to go into next season with Granderson, Gardner, and Ichiro.

  24. Martin

    All you naysayers to the idea of trading Robby Cano are assuming the Yankees can resign him once he hits free agency. I would rather have some stud prospects then just letting Robby walk, get nothing for him, and hope to resign him. If the Yankees wait until Robby hits free agency to resign him then they will definitely overpay and the vicious cycle continues. Besides is Robby Cano the kind of player you want to bill as the face of the franchise? He is no Jeter not even by a long shot. I am a huge Yankee fan and I like Cano, alot. But the Yankees have an opportunity here to get younger and fill some needs which are going to be significant by 2014. By my count they are going to need a closer, catcher, corner outfielder, 3 starting pitchers (Pettitte, Kuroda, Hughes…probably gone for 2014), third baseman, and SS. Now is the time to start planning for those needs. Trading Cano makes a huge amount of sense to me.

  25. PedroiaIsBetter

    If you look at pure stats, and fWAR-WAR calculations you see a 8ish guy,
    thats the 3rd most valuable player in the league.
    I think those numbers are MISLEADING. Cano in 2012 was LESS valuable in 2011
    even though the stats and FWAR-WAR would state otherwise.

    AB R H 2b 3b HR RBI AVG

    None On 333 17 103 27 0 17 17 .309 (2012)
    346 16 104 21 4 16 16 .301 2011

    RunnersOn 294 88 93 21 1 16 77 .316 (2012)

    Scoring
    Position 149 71 40 8 1 5 52 .268 (2012)

    Bases
    Loaded 24 21 5 1 0 2 18 .208 (2012)

    Lead
    Off
    Inning 133 7 50 13 0 7 7 .376 (2012)

    Scoring Posn,
    2 out 58 26 12 2 1 2 18 .207 (2012)

  26. PedroiaIsBetter

    If you look at pure stats, and fWAR-WAR calculations you see a 8ish guy,
    thats the 3rd most valuable player in the league.
    I think those numbers are MISLEADING. Cano in 2012 was LESS valuable in 2011
    even though the stats and FWAR-WAR would state otherwise.

    AB R H 2b 3b HR RBI AVG

    None On 333 17 103 27 0 17 17 .309 (2012)
    346 16 104 21 4 16 16 .301 2011

    RunnersOn 294 88 93 21 1 16 77 .316 (2012)
    277 88 84 25 3 12 102 .303 2011
    Scoring
    Position 149 71 40 8 1 5 52 .268 (2012)
    151 73 48 20 2 8 91 .318 2011
    Bases
    Loaded 24 21 5 1 0 2 18 .208 (2012)
    18 17 8 2 1 3 27 .444 2011
    Lead
    Off
    Inning 133 7 50 13 0 7 7 .376 (2012)
    147 6 45 8 2 6 6 .306 2011
    Scoring Posn,
    2 out 58 26 12 2 1 2 18 .207 (2012)
    65 26 18 7 1 3 31 .277 2011

    These Situational hitting numbers show that Robbie has been far less clutch
    this past year than in 2011

    He has always been good with leading off an inning at hitting homers. He seemed
    to hit a few more this year with Runners on(good)
    but having less RBIs(this is partly a result on Baserunners in front of him)
    In scoring position Robbie is merely above average this year whereas
    last year he had more doubles and rbi hits
    and sacrifice flies that drove runners in.
    Hes been slightly above better most of the team in that regard,
    but not quite cleanup hitter material expected of him.
    His leadoff numbers are exceptional this year
    better than his good year before.
    I think hes been more aggressive and trying to get the big hit.
    Maybe he sees the better pitches
    when he leads off.

    His Scoring at 2 out and Bases loaded has been Mendoza like. Literally less than
    half as good at loaded since the year before. Pitchers were VERY comfortable with
    him in those situations. Hes not been a great 2 out hitter this year.

    His stat padding of this year makes him worth IMHO a 15MM player, not a 20-25MM
    the Cano of 2011 would be worth 20-25MM a year. I think that Cano has peaked, and
    we are seeing the regression. I think pitchers have figured him out too.
    2012
    .239 VS LEFTIES
    .359 VS RIGHTIES

    Cano really should have been benched more against some tough lefties.
    2011
    .314 VS LEFTIES
    .296 VS RIGHTIES

    2010
    .285 vs LEFTIES
    .337 Vs LEFTIES

    Makes me wonder if he was more Pull-happy in 2012.. Will need to look at
    hit charts.

    I dont think he should be offered more than 5-125 to match Hamilton’s deal.

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